It has been less than two years since India’s women cricketers fired the public imagination. Not adequate for a second string of quality players to establish themselves, but certainly time enough for the cancer of maladministration and politics to take root.
Ideally, the court-appointed Committee of Administrators (COA) should not have got bogged in a purely cricketing matter, but since like all judicially-imposed bodies it is guilty of over-reach it cannot duck a role in putting an end to a controversy that might even end the career of a celebrated star.
The Mithali Raj-Romesh Powar spat is more than a disgrace, it threatens to prove disruptive. To make bad things worse, one of the two members of the COA (a third stepped aside) has needlessly got embroiled in the ugly skirmish, which points to court-determined bodies not always being above board.
Mr Vinod Rai now faces a thorny challenge of trying to restore authority with honour, that too under a different kind of public focus than the one that shaped his role as Comptroller & Auditor General. The fallout of denigrating elected authority has yet again been emphasised, an elected body is at least answerable.
It is poor journalistic practice, perhaps even contrary to professional ethics, to assert “we told you so”, but our recent editorial captioned ‘Poorly mentored’ has been endorsed by unseemly events. This is not to take sides but to assert that a more competent coach would not have allowed dissent to reach boiling point, sporting stars have ever had massive egos, take unkindly to correction but to “discipline” them, exclude them, from the playing XI is an admission of incompetence.
And the charge that Mithali did not score runs quickly enough stands rejected by the way the Indian batters crumbled when trying to hit the English bowlers out of the park in the disastrous semi-final. The buzz is that Powar’s term will not be extended: a more meaningful response would be to appoint a coach with requisite competence and woman management skills.
Not that Mithali emerges unscathed. Her manager’s opening tirade cannot be overlooked, including the slamming of the skipper (which Mithali never endorsed), and that negates her accomplishment with the bat. Nor can Powar’s unfavourable observations be ignored, particularly the contention that Mithali threatened to quit ~ no player is indispensable, India has lost with Mithali in the team, the side will not collapse if it loses without her.
Thus far Diana Edulji has opted for silence, she needs to clarify her position ~ this cannot be reduced to a catfight. Maybe all three: Powar, Mithali and Edulji need to reflect on the damage they have done and clear the environment of “political pollutants” in which can flourish Jemimah Rodrigues and other members of generation- next.